Stunning photos of Ain Dubai taken over nine months


When Ahmad Alnaji set out to photograph Ain Dubai, he wanted to communicate not only the sheer size of the observation wheel, but also his other world.

One of his photographs shows the structure standing as a solitary presence above the sunlit clouds, towering above the fog in a neat white arch. The photo was taken sometime after the observation pods were installed on the wheel late last year and captures the serene scenery that could be seen from the top of the 250-meter-high structure.

Open on Thursday, Ain Dubai has long been in the media for its record size. Knowing that it is the tallest and tallest observation wheel in the world is one thing. In fact, seeing its fenestrated pods peering into an endless stream of clouds is quite a visceral way of getting this fact.

The photograph is part of a series that documents the structure over a period of nine months. The images capture the attraction in the midst of photogenic weather as well as during key moments, such as New Year’s celebrations.

“Photographs can tell you two things about Ain Dubai,” says Alnaji, 23. “More importantly, the height of it. Even if you see it in person, it’s hard to imagine how huge this thing is. Another is its exceptional location. It’s in the middle of the sea. You can see boats and the moon’s reflections on the waters.

Alnaji’s photographs of Bluewaters Island show Ain Dubai eclipsing the cluster of commercial, hospital and residential oceanfront towers. However, what gives a fairly good impression of its size are the photographs captured in the fog that isolate and accentuate the enormity of the wheel, but with a certain poetic license.

One image shows the wheel with fog all the way to its middle section, while at the very bottom two boats draw lines along part of the waters of the Persian Gulf. The foamy trails of the boats are more noticeable than their pinhole shapes.

“Next to the steering wheel, they look like toys,” says Alnaji.

But a photograph cannot be as good as its point of view. Taking a picture while looking at the tallest observation wheel in the world meant having to be somewhere even higher. Alnaji knew such a place because he lived there.

Until last year, he lived on the 90th floor of the Princess Tower, Dubai’s tallest residential building. The apartment’s balcony, he says, is one of his favorite filming locations and offers stunning views of Ain Dubai. Fortunately, Alnaji is friends with the current tenants, who let him come and go as he pleases.

“I used to wake up my friends around 5 am telling them I was going upstairs,” he says. “I would also stay up all night on that balcony, taking pictures and doing a bit of work, waiting for the moon to come.” It was tiring, but great.

Alnaji started photographing Ain Dubai as early as last summer. He took countless images of the observation wheel, but did it again once the pods were in place.

“Around November [last year], when the cabins were installed, I decided to launch the project. We started on New Years Eve photographing the fireworks.

Not all images in the photo series were captured from Alnaji’s perspective from the Princess Tower. He also took off via a drone and photographed Ain Dubai from the rooftop of Caesars Palace on Bluewaters Island, located at the base of the Observation Wheel.

The Ain Dubai project is Alnaji’s latest effort to capture the city’s architecture. Last year, he released a time-lapse video documenting the city from his 90th-floor balcony during a thunderstorm. The project saw the light of day at the height of the pandemic, when home care measures were put in place throughout the city.

A Palestinian born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, Alnaji’s interest in Dubai’s cityscapes stems from seeing his transformation firsthand as he grew up.

“I’ve lived here my whole life,” he says. “From the first days of my childhood, I was attached to the architecture and the construction of the city.

While photography has been a common passion for him since he was young, Alnaji has started to take photography more seriously in recent years, taking on freelance projects and working professionally as an aerial and urban photographer. He is now looking at the Expo 2020 Dubai site as an inspiration for his next project.

“There is a lot of work to be done there,” he says. “Each pavilion is a story in itself.

“I want to take more than just photographs. I want the work to express a message. Create works of art through photography.

Updated: October 20, 2021, 08:05

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